In recent years, self myofascial release (SMR) has become a hot topic. As more research comes out, we are learning how fascial restrictions affect and influence movement. Taking group fitness participants through SMR techniques in your warm-up may give them more freedom from joint stress and pain, and their recovery times may improve.
Myofascial release is a form of bodywork and stretching/self-treatment that improves posture, increases flexibility and reduces stress, tension and pain, while boosting athletic performance, energy levels and body awareness (Earls & Myers 2010). A simple SMR routine can improve neuromuscular efficiency and prepare tissue for more dynamic movements. Some muscles are prone to fascial restrictions and others to becoming “de-activated” as a result of chronic poor posture, injury and stress. This warm-up focuses on “freeing” restricted muscles with SMR and waking up deactivated muscles.
Tip: Buy 3-foot foam rollers and cut them into 1-foot sections for class purposes. You can also use tennis balls or buy specialized myofascial release tools.
Flexibility, Core, Balance and Reactivity Circuit
Focus on the following areas:
- hip flexor/iliotibial band
- calf complex
- latissimus dorsi
- chest and upper trapezius
Hold foam roller, tennis ball or other SMR tool on tender spots for 30–120 seconds, spending 1–2 minutes on each body part. Move slowly over each area—about one inch per second. Gradually incorporate slight limb movement.
Perform the following to assist with flexibility and balance:
- Standing hip flexor stretch with arm abduction and thoracic rotation: hold for 30–60 seconds and then activate gluteus maximus to drive hips forward (3- to 5-second contraction). Repeat on opposite side.
- Walking lunge with anterior reach and rotation: hold light medicine ball or dumbbell with arms extended. Lunge with anterior reach to outside of lunging leg and then come up to balance on one leg. Move at slow tempo: 4/2/1. Repeat on opposite side.
Perform the following to activate muscles:
- side lunge to balance with scapular retraction
- hip bridge from floor
- T-plank (prone plank with rotation to side plank)
- reactive squat jump
For first three exercises, move at slow tempo to engage deep core stabilizers, scapular stabilizers and hip extensors. Do 2–3 sets of 10–20 repetitions at 4/2/1 tempo or hold each one for 3–10 seconds. Teach optimal landing mechanics with squat jump, landing softly. Maintain neutral joint alignment of ankle, knee and lumbopelvic hip complex. Do 2–3 sets of 8–12 reps. Hold landing for 3–5 seconds (Clark et al. 2011).
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